A United Church of Christ minister in Indiana is once again standing with the LGBT community while decrying the governor's public support of a proposed amendment to the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage. The Rev. Marie Siroky thinks that the religious freedom of clergy to perform marriages, along with diverse religious practices, is part what she calls a "just and moral society." In the end, she and other LGBT advocates will work to be part of the conversation on the issue.
"Well before Gov. [Mike] Pence was elected to any public office, leaders of faith communities throughout Indiana were working toward justice for LGBT individuals and their families in Indiana," said Siroky. She is also the board president of the Interfaith Coalition on Non-Discrimination (ICON), and sent a letter expressing disappointment of Pence's support of the proposed constitutional limitation of marriage, referred to as House Joint-Resolution 6 (HJR-6).
"Gov. Pence codifies his own faith belief into the state constitution while continuing to discount the major denominations and faith communities who hold a view of marriage equality," the letter states. "He has discounted the justice work of those faith-filled individuals and communities; he seemingly disregards those who hold a different religious view as a vital component of Indiana's population, and has snubbed requests to meet with ICON representatives to dialog and hear their point of view."
Pence's remarks came on the heels of two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions in June that were in favor of marriage equality, first striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional because it prohibited federal benefits of legally married same-sex couples, and then declining to rule on a California ban on same-sex marriages. The California ruling, which ended the state's Proposition 8 law and restored marriage equality, effectively signaled that the Court wants each state to decide the debate over marriage equality.
In February, Indiana lawmakers decided to wait until after the Supreme Court made its ruling to revisit the issue before moving forward with the proposed amendment prohibiting marriage equality. Even after the high court's decisions, lawmakers who supported HJR-6 were ready to push forward. The state already has a law that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
"We are concerned that as dialog and discussion is germane to effective governance, a significant portion of our citizens are being discounted simply because their doctrines of faith are not shared by those with political power," Siroky said. Pence already had to apologize that his staff deleted hundreds of pro-marriage equality comments from his Facebook page.
Siroky's letter goes on to say that participants in ICON from various faith settings and communities – including pastors, chaplains, rabbis, professors, past presidents of seminaries, regional leaders of denominations, educators, counselors, and many other ministries – have taken their pastoral authority and responsibility seriously as they dialogue and work together in diversity. "The hundreds of faith leaders who have signed letters to legislators, marched, prayed and testified, give public witness to justice," she said. "Would that our governor and more elected officials embody the same respect and responsibility. Authentic dialog is the place to start."
In 2005, the UCC's General Synod in Atlanta passed a resolution affirming equal marriages for all people, regardless of gender, making the UCC the first mainline denomination to allow same-sex marriages in the United States. The General Synod also stated that the government should not interfere with couples who choose to marry, and instead should share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriages.